What is the proper role of coercion and punishment in statecraft? This work illuminates the question afresh by orchestrating a titanic debate: Plato’s account of penal legislation, in his political philosophy of statecraft as soulcraft, vs the accounts elaborated by three recent major political theorists—Arendt, Habermas, and Foucault ... The result is a deeply provocative perspective on the philosophy of crime and punishment. — Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas at Austin

A thought-provoking and exceptionally original exploration of the role of punishment and coercion in Platonic political theory.... A must-read for anyone interested in Platonic political theory. — Waller Newell, Carleton University

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In this magisterial study of coercion and power in Plato there is a subtle but significant difference between Platonic power and modern power in their use of coercion... 

... a breathtaking analysis of the Republic, the Laws, and the Gorgias. 

 — Paul Krause, VoegelinView

This book is about an epochal shift in ideas that changed the nature and meaning of coercion in modern political thought. It begins with a review of Foucault, Arendt, and Habermas, and points out a discrepancy in the way each thinker understood coercion in modern politics. From here, Varma examines Plato’s Republic, Laws, and Gorgias to provide a framework and context for thinking about this. As the author shows, each work demonstrates a particular style of Platonic statecraft that corresponds to the amount of power the philosopher holds in a city. The Republic demonstrates the philosopher’s rule as a monarch; the Laws demonstrates his rule when he must share power with a few spirited statesmen; and the Gorgias demonstrates his rule in a democracy where power belongs to the people. Ultimately, Varma argues that the philosopher used coercion as a supplementary tool to help harmonize man’s soul with the heavens. When Hobbes recast the cosmos as matter in motion, however, power became the highest ordering principle for political life.

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